Ethical Investing News/Commentaries:
Commentaries by Ron
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December SRI Fund Sales Hit 1-Billion Euros For The
"... figures compiled for Responsible Investor by
Lipper Feri, the investment data group. Total sales
for the SRI sector for December, 2008 were €999.4m
($1.3bn) to take its overall value of to €35.4bn.
Significantly, total SRI fund sales came out at 10%
of the total European equity fund sales figure of
just over €10bn in December, which suggests SRI fund
sales are holding up well and increasing in
comparison to their mainstream peers during the
current economic market crisis. SRI funds typically
represent around 1-2% of the total European equity
fund market, which is valued at just over €1
trillion as measured by Feri." Increasingly,
investors are coming to believe that the best stocks
that are good to invest in have an ethical and green hue to them.
SRI fund sales hit 1 billion euro mark in December,
green sales positive, by Hugh Wheelan,
Responsible Investor, UK.
Co-op UK Funding Anti Tar Sands Fight.
"The Co-op banking and investment group is paying
£50,000 ($71,000) to fund a legal action in Canada
that could block the development of the country’s
oil sands by companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and
BP... The money will be used to fund
evidence-gathering for the case being brought by the
Beaver Lake Cree nation, an aboriginal community in
Alberta, the province where the oil sands industry
is based." Together with the powerful
environmental forces within the new Obama
administration, investors in Canada's oil sands are
under siege as they have never been before.
Co-op to fund oil sands fight, by Ed Crooks,
February 25, 2009, Financial Times, UK.
Government Green Stimulus Tops $200 Billion.
This is good news for green investors and for the
planet. This Reuters article says the US
stimulus package contains $106 billion for green
Global "green" energy stimulus hits $200 bln -bank,
February 24, 2009, Reuters, USA.
College States Fund Divestment Related To KLD's SRI Analysis Of its Holdings.
"In sum, what KLD found was that of the fund's
455 holdings, well over 200 raised significant
concerns relative to Hampshire College's socially
responsible investment policy and were in violation
of values of socially responsible investing. It was
on this basis that the investment committee voted as
it did to exit from the fund when an alternative
fund has been identified. The decision was entirely
unrelated to Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian
It seems to me that Hampshire College has set an
excellent example of what all endowment and
foundation funds should be doing -- looking for
ethical stocks that are good to invest in.
An open letter to Alan Dershowitz, by Ralph
Hexter, president, Sigmund Roos, chair of the Board
of Trustees Hampshire College, USA, published in
The Jerusalem Post, Israel.
Discussions On The Relevance/Irrelevance Of The
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Statistic. -
I wrote this editorial,
Retiring the GDP last May. I have recently
become aware of some terrific new articles,
developments and websites on the subject that I want to share with you. See below.
Worldwide Support Found for Measuring True Wealth of
Hazel Henderson, February 19, 2009, Chelsea Green,
A measure remodelled, by John Thornhill, January
27, 2009, FT.com, UK.
A more humane way to measure progress, by Simon
Briscoe, January 31, 2009, FT.com, UK.
National Accounts of Well-being, (website), UK.
Strategic Value Advisors Being Purchased by
"By combining Innovest’s ESG research with
RiskMetrics leading capabilities in risk management
and corporate governance, we can help investors make
more-informed decisions." -- Matthew Kiernan.
This is huge news in the ESG/SRI industry. I have
known Matthew -- a co-founder of Innovest -- for
a number of years. He has helped build Innovest into what
many in the industry regard as the finest company on
the planet engaged in sustainability research for
institutional investors. I wish Matthew and all the
team at Innovest the very best for a bright future!
RiskMetrics Group to Acquire Innovest, February
19, 2009, Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, Canada.
Shariah Compliant Mutual Fund Launched.
"Introducing a newer concept in Indian mutual
fund industry, [the] Taurus Ethical Fund, India’s
first equity oriented Shariah compliant mutual fund,
wherein investment will be made only in a universe
of 152 companies in compliance with Shariah norms."
With its huge Muslim population as well as the
growing interest in ethical investing, this fund
could fill an important niche in the Indian mutual
Taurus MF launches Taurus Ethical Fund, February
18, 2009, The Economic Times, India.
Government Backs World's First Responsible Investing
"... a grant worth Aus$2.5 m (€1.25m) for the
creation of one of the world’s first dedicated
academies for training and education and research.
The government has also asked the Australian
Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to review its
prudential guidance to Australian superannuation
funds in a move that looks likely to see it
recommend that funds take greater account of ESG
issues in their investment decisions." Well done
Australia. Perhaps other governments will follow as
the recognition of the importance of ESG
(environmental, social and governance) factors to
long-term investing become obvious to everyone.
Australian govt backs world’s first RI academy with
Aus$2.5m, floats ESG law changes, by Hugh
Wheelan, February 19, 2009, Responsible Investor,
Fuels Association (RFA) Slams University of
Minnesota's Ethanol Study.
"... like several other highly controversial
studies published recently, the conclusion that corn
ethanol does not offer climate change benefits
relative to gasoline is based almost entirely
upon insufficient and extremely uncertain analysis
of potential land use changes... If the authors’
[University of Minnesota] assumed land use change
emissions are removed from the analysis, the paper
suggests average corn ethanol reduces greenhouse
gases by 30% compared to gasoline and advanced corn
ethanol reduces GHGs by 46%."
Wow, what a
comeback from the RFA! They also say that, "Modern
corn ethanol is displacing some of the need for
gasoline from marginal sources of oil with high
carbon intensity [i.e. Canadian tar sands,
Venezuelan heavy crude, etc.]" It is clear that
we need to be careful about taking studies at face
value. You can only compare 'apples with apples' and
not 'apples to oranges.' So as usual, more study is
needed to help resolve the issue of ethanol's carbon
emissions. Personally though, I still do not like
using food croplands for ethanol production.
RFA Analysis: Climate Change and Health Costs of Air
Emissions from Biofuels & Gasoline,
February 17, 2009, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA),
‘Most Responsible Company’ In China By China
International Forum On Corporate Social
"The award recognizes companies for their
successful corporate responsibility during the past
30 years -- since China’s economic reform... About
400 representatives from government agencies,
enterprises and media attended the forum, which was
broadcast by Phoenix TV, the most popular Chinese
language TV channel in China."
DuPont Named ‘Most Responsible Company’ in China,
February 17, 2009, WebWire, China.
Rate America's Greenest Brands. -
Companies with high scores include, "Whole Foods,
Trader Joe's, Wegmans, Fresh & Easy, Publix, MOMs,
Tom's of Maine, Burt's Bees, Green Mountain Coffee,
Odwalla and Kashi, among others." As these
companies demonstrate, a green and ethical business
environment continues to grow.
Whole Foods, Google, Trader Joe's Among Consumers'
Greenest Brands: Report, February 17, 2009,
Click here for actual survey results.
For One-Third Of Stimulus Packages Be For
Environmental Investments To Get Global And National
Economies Back To Sustainable Work.
"This would assist in powering the global economy
out of recession and onto a Green, 21st century path
a new report released today by the UN Environment
Programme (UNEP) says."
Realizing a "Green New Deal," press release,
United Nations Environmental Program, February 16,
2009, Nairobi, Kenya.
Social Responsibility (CSR) Remains A Corporate Priority And
Not Harmed Stock Performance In Downturn.
"In the worst economic turmoil in decades, when
investors had every reason to shed pretensions of
political correctness, companies that put time and
energy into behaving responsibly seem, thus far
anyway, to have performed no worse than those that
I suspect that as the concern with corporate ethics
rises and with investment analysts increasingly
interested in how corporations score on
environmental, social and governance factors, CSR
will continue to grow. For companies, the advantages
of using corporate social responsibility are getting
more important with each passing day. And as
investors become more critical of corporate
performance, they are increasingly demanding it as
Responsibility Is Still Good For Business, by
Christopher Flavelle, February 15, 2009, The Big
Money Via The Washington Post, USA.
Passes US Stimulus Bill. Includes Green
Spending & Initiatives. -
It is a start in the recognition that green
energy/tech do matter. Some green/ethical stocks and
bonds could benefit as $45 billion is earmarked for
promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy
through new spending and tax incentives.
How will the $789 billion stimulus package affect
you? By Sue Kirchhoff, February 13, 2009, USA
Hampshire College Due To Divestments Associated With
Companies Operating In Israel.
"A pro-Palestinian student group and Hampshire
College disagreed Thursday as to whether the
Massachusetts institution’s withdrawal of
investments from an index fund represented a rebuke
of Israel, and a major first for the divestment
movement... Dershowitz, a Harvard University law
professor and well known supporter of Israel,
threatened to unleash a campaign against the
college, and issue a call for donors to withhold
contributions, unless Hampshire resolves any
ambiguities and clearly states that it rejects
student efforts to divest from the Jewish state."
Hampshire College withdrew its investment in a fund
managed by State Street and says that the State
Street fund violated Hampshire's socially
responsible guidelines. For ethical investors, this
will be important to watch and to see if other
college endowments gravitate to socially responsible
investing- - and to see what screens they apply.
War of Words on Investments in Israel, by
Elizabeth Redden, February 13, 2009, Inside
Higher Ed, USA.
Foundations Who Invested With Madoff Could Face
Government Fines For Imprudent Fiduciary Oversight.
"Under an obscure tax rule, private foundations
can be penalized for failing to vet their
investments properly, to heed red flags or to
diversify prudently." Here we have another
reason why foundations have to bring higher ethics
into their funds' management and to re-think and
re-align their endowments with ethical principles
that mirror their mission goals.
For Investing With Madoff, Private Foundations Could
Face Tax Fines, by Lynnley Browning, February
11, 2009, The New York Times, USA.
Reviews Social & Environmental Disclosure Using Case
Studies In Brazil, France, South Africa & Sweden.
"The initiatives in the five case studies
presented provide models for similar regulatory
action by U.S. agencies or stock exchanges to
promote transparency and efficiency in U.S.
markets." An ethical business environment
demands full disclosure and transparency. Because of
the lack of this and to supposedly 'safeguard' the
system, unethical behaviour has been allowed to
flourish. Only a new higher consciousness with some
of the examples outlined in this report will turn
the tide. Fortunately, some signs of this are
Innovations in Social and Environmental Disclosure
Outside the United States, November 2008, Domini
Social Investments and The Social Investment Forum,
Interest! US Congressmen On The House Financial
Services Committee Received Big Campaign
Contributions From Banks Getting TARP Funds. -
"Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)... represents a state
that is home to many hedge funds, insurers and other
financial institutions, collected the most from
these companies in the 2008 cycle at $195,350,
followed by ranking member Rep. Spencer Bachus
(R-Ala.), who collected $116,950. JPMorgan has been
Bachus's second-largest donor over time, giving him
at least $96,000 since 1989. The eight financial
institutions at Wednesday's hearing have given
$63,250 to the chairman of the committee, Rep.
Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and JPMorgan has given him
more money than any other company, union or
organization since 1989. The House Financial
Services Committee has jurisdiction over the housing
and financial sectors."
How can the
public have confidence in the House Financial Services
Committee to act on their behalf when its members are beholden to these same banks and
investment firms for their electoral finances? It
makes a mockery of Congresses' oversight mechanism
of financial services.
Congressmen Hear from TARP Recipients Who Funded
Their Campaigns, by Lindsay Renick Mayer,
February 10, 2009, OpenSecrets.org, USA.
Blackstone Group, & The Carlyle Group, Among Leading
Global Private Equity Funds Agreeing To Incorporate
ESG In Research Analysis.
"The member firms of the Washington, DC-based
lobbying group Private Equity Council [PEC] have
signed on to a set of socially responsible
investment guidelines. Member firms include Bain
Capital Partners, TPG, Permira, The Blackstone
Group, Apollo Global Management, The Carlyle Group,
Apax Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Kohlberg Kravis
Roberts, Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence
Equity Partners, Silver Lake and Thomas H Lee
This is a big breakthrough for ethical investing!
Read the article and believe that short-sighted,
short-termism that lead to so many of our financial
difficulties today, is dying, and now being replaced
by the longer term inclusion of environmental,
social, and governance (ESG) factors. The PEC
themselves also appear to believe that this new
orientation can lead to greater profits -- which is
what ethical investors have long maintained will be
the inevitable consequence of including ESG in
Mega-firms embrace socially responsible investing,
by Christopher Witkowsky, February 10, 2009,
Private Equity Real Estate, USA.
Says Wachovia, Wells Fargo, & Suntrust Are America's
Best Large Banks.
You have to dig to try to find out how they arrived
at these findings. Also, Green America says
they have too little information to rate them on
many of the variables, so it makes you wonder how
valid are the overall scores. However, this
information is useful reviewing if you are
interested in socially conscious banks.
Banking and financial, Green America (formerly
Co-op America), USA.
Outperforming Benchmark Indices.
"Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes, which
represent benchmarks for Islamically correct
investment categories, have been outperforming their
non-Islamically compliant counterparts by 3 to 4
percent in key indexes. The two Amana Income and
Growth funds, the largest Islamic mutual funds in
the country [USA] with $1.2 billion in combined
assets, have been outperforming the S&P 500 in the
past year by 13 and 7 percent, respectively. (Both
Amana funds also outperform the S&P index on 5- and
Islamic funds have to meet strict ethical and
spiritual guidelines. Thus they have avoided the
worst excesses of the current financial disaster.
Values-based investors also might want to look into
the ethics and theoretical underpinnings of Islamic
finance to help them in their investment decisions.
Muslim investors profit by adhering to faith,
by Matthai Kuruvila, February 9, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle,
Still Buying Green Products.
"The 2009 National Green Buying survey by Green
Seal and EnviroMedia Social Marketing found that
half of consumers are buying just as many green
products now as they did before the economic
downturn began. An additional 19 percent are buying
more products than before, and 14 percent are buying
fewer green products." This is good news for
green investors, the environment, and the global
Consumers Still Buying Green Through Economic
Changes, February 9, 2009, GreenBiz, USA.
Minnesota Study Suggests That Corn-Based Ethanol
More Harmful & Costly Than Gasoline.
Cellulosic Ethanol Holds Promise.
"According to the findings in this study, for
each billion gallons of fuel produced and expelled
into the air through a vehicles exhaust, the
combined health and greenhouse costs are $469
million for gasoline and somewhere between $472
million to $952 million for corn ethanol... [and]
$123 million to $208 million cost was associated
with the use of cellulosic ethanol..."
Corn-based ethanol is proving to be bad in every
way. For ethical investors, cellulosic ethanol, made
from wood chips, plant waste, grass, etc., could be
well worth watching though.
New Study Finds Corn-based Ethanol More Harmful Than
Oil-based Gasoline, by Eric Leech, Treehugger,
Guide To Green & Socially Responsible Investing
This is a useful overview of green/SRI investing
with particular reference to SRI mutual funds in the
The Morningstar Guide to "Green" and Socially
Responsible Investing, Morningstar, USA.
Magazine Features Advisor's Choice Of Ten Top Green
His choices include GE and United Technologies.
Some ethical investors may certainly argue the
merits of these companies. However, there are others
among the chosen ten that ethical investors could
Green your portfolio, by Charles Carlson,
February 3, 2009, Forbes.com, USA. (Click on the
"In Pictures: 10 Green Dividend Reinvestment Plans.")
Survey Of The State Of Green Business By GreenBiz
Shows Little Change.
The report has some interesting statistics
concerning US energy use, green patents, etc.
State of Green Business 2009: Green is Growing, But
Not Fast Enough, February 2, 2009, GreenBiz,
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